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At the UN, a ‘Book of Names’ invites visitors to touch the names of more than 4.8 million Jewish Holocaust victims

The idea is “to connect physically with their memories,” said Simmy Allen, of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel which created the exhibit

The Book of Names, an installation that includes the names of more than 4.8 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, will go on display at the United Nations Jan. 26 in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

The book, an archive that stands 6 ½ feet high, more than 3 feet wide and nearly 26 ½ feet long, was created by Israel’s Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The names are organized alphabetically in 50 different segments of 3,000 pages each. Blank pages at the end of the book represent the more than 1 million Jewish Holocaust victims whose identities are yet to be recovered.

The public can view the Book of Names, right, which stretches 26 feet, at the United Nations beginning on Jan. 26, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Courtesy of Yad Vashem

Given its length, several people can view the book at the same time. A ray of light that runs the length of the inside of the book illuminates each opened page.

“The big element of the Book of Names is allowing people not only to touch the names of the murdered victims but to connect physically with their memories like we do at a gravesite,” said Simmy Allen, head of the international media section of Yad Vashem.

All the names in the book are also online on Yad Vashem’s website. Whenever the information is known, beside each name is the person’s date of birth, hometown and place of death. The online Book of Names is in English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, German and Russian.

Accompanying the U.N. installation, which is supported by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, will be a video about the importance of remembering the names of Holocaust victims, why the search continues for additional names, and information about the Holocaust. The narrator of the video intones: “The monumental size of the book attests to the immeasurable and inconceivable loss to the Jewish people and to all of humanity.”

The video that will go on display with the Book of Names at the United Nations in New York on Thursday Jan. 26, 2023. Courtesy of Yad Vashem.

The Book of Names will be on display in the U.N.’s Sputnik Hall for three weeks, after which it will be dismantled and shipped back to Israel for permanent display as a part of Yad Vashem’s Museum’s Complex on Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance. It will be open for public viewing there in time for Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed this year on April 17-18.

Another Book of Names created by Yad Vashem has been on permanent exhibition in Block 27 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial since 2013. At the time that book was created it contained 4.2 million names.

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from Jan. 26 through to Feb. 17.

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